L.S. Vygotsky’s contributions to social research shifted paradigms by constructing now-foundational theories of teaching, learning, language, and their interactions in education. This manuscript contextualizes and elucidates a nearly-forgotten, century-old component of Vygotskian deaf education research. The Fundamentals of Defectology compiles decades of Vygotsky’s experimental, methodological, and theoretical research about deafness, the psychology of disability, and special methods of pedagogy. Drawing on Defectology, two arguments are developed using the method of dialectics; they first synthesize Vygotsky’s deaf research corpus, then juxtapose it against contemporary theories and evidence. The first argument describes three principles that exemplify Vygotsky’s optimistic framework for deaf pedagogy: positive differentiation, creative adaptation, and dynamic development. The second posits five propositions about deaf development, including: the biosocial proposition, the sensory delimitation-and-consciousness proposition, the adapted tools proposition, the multimodal proposition, and finally the conflict proposition. By leveraging Vygotsky’s characteristic optimism in response to the absorbing and difficult challenges of deaf pedagogy and deaf research methodologies, these arguments constitute a future-oriented call to action for researchers and pedagogues working in deaf education today.

Publication Date



This is the author's manuscript; the final, published version of this paper is located at DOI:10.1353/aad.2020.0004

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Master of Science in Secondary Education (NTID)


RIT – Main Campus